2 bids placed for former church

March 15, 2013
By

HYDE SQ.—At least two bids were submitted late last month for the former Blessed Sacrament Church building at 360 Centre St.

Local developers Jason Hutchinson and Andre White made a $1.4 million bid with plans for a small business/nonprofit complex, and the Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) is in talks with the church owners about making a bid. It is unclear whether the HSTF is considered the second bidder or whether a third party is involved.

“Our practice is to carry out discussions or negotiations with potential buyers in private. We will meet with both parties to discuss their offers,” said Sally Swenson, a spokesperson for church co-owner the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC). She declined to identify the second bidder, saying that is at the bidder’s request.

The massive, historic church is presently co-owned by JPNDC and New Atlantic Development. They have controversial plans to convert the church into high-end condos. But they recently held a series of meetings to solicit alternative use ideas and review their feasibility.

Hutchinson, a local contractor, and White, a developer, are proposing a $3.4 million renovation into “JP Exchange,” an array of community-based businesses. The proposal includes a “small business incubator and open market,” event space and an indoor play space for children.

Hutchinson and White wrote in an email that they would need six to 12 months to put together the financing for the purchase. In the meantime, they said, they are seeking a partnership with the preservation group Historic Boston Incorporated (HBI) to purchase and hold the church building for them.

“We have yet to have a substantive conversation with the developer, so this is not a project that HBI has taken a close look at yet,” HBI Executive Director Kathy Kottaridis, a Jamaica Plain resident, told the Gazette.

Hutchinson and White say that the redevelopment costs up to $9 million cited by a consultant hired by New Atlantic and JPNDC were inflated and could be greatly reduced. Much of the funding would rely on the New Markets Tax Credit program. Many of the potential grant and funding sources they cite in their bid are for active churches or religious institutions. It is unclear whether their “JP Exchange” idea would have a religious component or structure.

The HSTF, a youth leadership organization, already purchased and operates programs in a former school building on the Blessed Sacrament complex. HSTF members have been among the leading critics of the condo plans and called for some type of cultural center instead.

“The Hyde Square Task Force and the JP Neighborhood Development Corporation are currently engaged in positive discussions in which we are exploring what a viable offer for the Blessed Sacrament Church would look like,” HSTF organizing director Ken Tangvik said in an email to the Gazette.